Did you know that the average person spends about a third of their life at work? In totality, that looks something like 90,000 hours. Needless to say, that’s a huge amount of time. While most of our working days fly by in unremarkable fashion, ultimately, the quality of our work life impacts our quality of life overall.
As such, it’s hardly surprising that human resource departments play such an integral part in the running of businesses the world over. HR teams are tasked with the recruitment of talent and the monitoring of company culture, but they also have a duty of care to the existing employees within their organization.
In our modern times, the importance (and rewards) of a diverse office have become increasingly paramount. We know that businesses operate at their best when they reflect the wealth of experiences, identities and backgrounds that exist in the real world. Yet, even in our contemporary climate, the importance of neurodiversity within the workplace is only just beginning to take the spotlight.
Neurodiversity refers to a collection of neurological differences which can impact the cognitive processing of individuals in a variety of ways. Examples of differences which fall under the neurodiversity umbrella include dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and autism. In the UK, it is estimated that 1 in 7 people are neurodivergent. Considering how common these differences are, it’s easy to see why more and more companies are looking to create (and scale!) plans which offer equality in their office for neurodivergent employees.
At the start of 2020, Universal Music became one of the first public movers and shakers with the launch of their ‘Creative Differences’ handbook. As music industry leaders, Universal count a particularly high number of creatives amongst their employees. Considering the relationship between neurodiversity and creativity, it is unsurprising that they also have an especially high number of prominent neurodivergent employees.
The Universal handbook covers everything from misconceptions and stereotypes to guidelines for creating a fairer and more inclusive work environment. The handbook also emphasises that this is important not just because of a duty to employees, but so that businesses can benefit from the many individual talents that neurodiverse employees embody.
Research from Universal indicates that 96% of employers in creative industries believe their workplace would benefit from being neurodiverse, yet only 17% of people know how many neurodiverse employees are already within their company.
Though neurodiversity has become something of a buzzword in recent months, many people – employers included – are unsure of what steps actually need to be taken in order to support neurodiverse individuals. While there is no cookie-cutter plan which can be implemented to universally improve work processes for neurodiverse individuals, there are many general guidelines for best practice.
Before taking action, it’s important to take stock. There may be many simple measures that can be adjusted or changed which you are not even aware of. That’s why the best starting point for progressive businesses is understanding what is currently in place and then identifying any gaps.
Neurological differences can present themselves in many ways. Of course, many of us know of the common issues associated with well-known learning differences such as dyslexia, but even so, it is important that you never assume you have the full picture. For example, you may know that dyslexia impacts spelling, but did you further know that it can also affect memory, organization and coordination?
When reviewing your workplace’s neurodiverse inclusivity, you should consider all the elements of employees’ work environments and processes. What do your offices sound, smell and look like? How do teams and individuals communicate? How is information presented? Do you give employees options and alternatives to text when sharing information? What tools are at your employees’ disposal? Do you actively talk about neurodiversity in a healthy, positive light? How do you onboard employees and do you offer customizable options in the process?
These may seem like broad questions, but by even considering them you are likely to see areas where you could be doing things better. With many employers not fully aware of the number of neurodiverse people in their organization, exploring these questions will also help you to identify those within your company who may be affected, so you can establish the most effective solutions. Discussing neurodiversity and educating staff on this subject area is the best way to lay a foundation for a good, forward-thinking environment.